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|an unusually mild august night in portugal||
12 years ago this month, it was a surprisingly temperate August in Portugal. I was visiting with Marcos and his family in Vilar Formoso for three weeks before going to college. (Marcos had been living with me and my mom as a foreign exchange student the school year before, he's an incredibly congenial guy with GQ looks. He had about 15 different gals asking him to the Homecoming Dance that fall.)
I drank alcohol for the first time in Portugal. In fact, I learned something, and I'll impart that bit of drinking wisdom to you now:
If you're ever in a little cafe in Portugal, and you see the guy behind the counter making up some weird, green kool-aid looking concoction in a large barrel-shaped glass, don't ask what it is.Anyway.
Marcos and his brother Manny had a good friend named Baptista. The four of us had hung around that cafe, and one great early early morning drove to the bakery where Baptista used to work and got hot crusty rolls and drove back home and made up this amazing tuna stuff to put on them and played cards in the kitchen 'til dawn.
Baptista was a nice guy, a few years older than me, and a bit political-minded. He only had a little bit of English, I had no Portuguese . Together we tried to figure out the Portuguese version of Microsoft Word, which I had never tried to use before, even in English. Also, I was doodling constantly in a notebook those weeks; another time he and collaborated on some odd political cartoons about censorship; that's why I know the Portuguese word for ink: "tinta".
But neither of those were the time I want to talk about.
See, I wasn't supposed to be in Portugal for 3 weeks; I was supposed to be there for around a week and a half, spending the rest of the time visiting Veronika in Germany. Veronika and I had gone out the year before Marcos' stay, when she was a foreign exchange student. We hadn't made each other any promises about keeping it up long distance, but we were writing, and that Spring she had sent me a bit of a "Dear John" letter, she had met somebody new. A few weeks later, she wrote again and confirmed it would probably be awkward if I were to visit.
One thing I learned is that when you're young and Portuguese, living on the border with Spain, lots of times you cross the border where there are some better clubs. You drink a lot and pee on the buildings, it's kind of a tradition. So a bunch of us had done just that, and then plans got a little drunken and confused, but there was something about meeting back in Vilar Formoso at the train station. Baptista and I stumbled back and waited for Marcos and a few other guys.
I decided to tell him about Veronika, and how I still had such strong feelings for her, and how amazing she was, and how sad I was that I wasn't going to be able to see her that summer. And he opened up to me about his French teacher, this woman he had a huge crush on, but it was doomed from the start. There was something about that moment: the moonlight, the booze, the empty train station, having to stumble through phrases to find the words we had in common to tell our parallel stories of heartbreak...
Later Marcos and his friend showed up, and the friend took this picture:
If it's not completely obvious, we're all pretty drunk. Also, Portuguese train stations have some of the loveliest murals.
The next Spring, I found out Baptista had died...I guess he had some epilepsy, and maybe there was some tie-in with former drug use, or something, I don't know. So I was shocked and sad. And a little later the Beatles' "Let It Be" came on the CD player, and I wept, like I hadn't since my father had died, like I wouldn't again 'til Mo told me she wanted a divorce.
Just one of those things, I guess.
(On a whim I Google'd up Marcos yesterday, he's been really bad about staying in touch. Looks like he's involved in some European political/humanitarian stuff, head of the youth forum for The North - South Centre of the Council of Europe. I don't know how big a deal that is, though I found some photos from 1998 with him sitting next to Kofi Annan. It's making my life feel a little trivial, actually.)
And that's what I wanted to say about that. There are more stories behind the photos from that trip to Portugal, seeing the old Roman aqueducts, going to Baptista's town to see a small hometown bullfight (the bulls aren't killed, and anyone can run across the ring...) and maybe some other time I'll get into all that. But right now I'm thinking about that night, and the booze, and the train station in the moonlight in Portugal.
|memoriam: 5307 days||
(For me the calculation is a little weirder than that, since I have this odd theory that I wasn't fundamentally who I am now until sometime during middle school. It's a self-serving rule of thumb, makes me feel less close to "middle aged" than I am.)
He was sick for 14 months before his death (though, tellingly, I first estimated it at 2-3 years)...Spinal Meningitis that knocked his nervous system, made him half blind and left him with extremely poor coordination and difficult speech. (It also took out his sense of smell...and having been trained as a nurse, his first professional diagnosis was "huh, when you get spinal meningitis, your farts don't smell!") He had been on a road of slow recovery, regaining the ability to walk, relearning how to read, when treatment for a tumor on his left gave him a setback from which he couldn't recover. The saddest moment I know of, my own personal "what to think about if I need quick tears for a stage role", came a few weeks before his death. Word of my grandmother Eva's death had arrived that morning (and, historically, they had not always been on super friendly terms, ever since he managed to polish the anniversary numbers off of her silver--) and I had just gotten up and walked by his bedroom (he was bedridden again) and he was there weeping and weeping. Weeping for Eva, and with a likely foreknowledge of his own passing. Trying to put myself in his place there gives me a sense of horror and foreboding that's hard to comprehend.
He was generous too. He thought it was important for a guy to have a little "scratch" money on him, and would often slip a little something into letters to some of his nephews. Another sad and horrific yet somehow beautiful thing I remember is when he had first gotten ill, had suffered these grand mal seizures, was in the hospital bed, he urged my mom to give me a little money, a five or something. Because of his slurred speech it took a while to understand what he was saying, about how what's supposed to happen is a son goes up to his father, says he needs a little money, and the father takes it out of his wallet and gives it to him. And it took me even longer to get a deeper understanding of what he meant by it.
I guess some of my biggest regrets are not being able to interact with him after I grew out of my graceless adolescent phases. So much of what I'm proud of in life (getting my act together in school, going to a good college, pulling off neat technological tricks, things I've written and websites I've started, finding and wooing Mo, stumbling into a decent career, settling into my sense of humor, such as it is) have happened since early freshman year in high school... (this ties into that "life begins at 13" theory of mine.) And who knows, maybe if he had been around, I might've been a bit more culturally attuned, not quite the barbarian I am now.
Sigh. More than sigh.
James Edward Israel, 9/9/1949 - 10/10/1988.
|the perpetual nostalgic||
Email of a Past Moment of a Moment Passed|
I also thought of you recently because of a conversation I had with a friend. It was about being really happy in a relationship; giddily happy, happy without reservation. As far as I can remember, the only time I was happy like that was in 1991. I'm not sure if it's fair to me to say that right now, because I think it would be really really unusual if it was you and I who found that again. As far as I can tell, that's what New York was all about. Before you arrived, I wondered what it would be like the first instant I saw you. in the airport. And when that moment came, it was...something, but not That Thing I had hoped for. (I don't put a lot of stock in gut feelings, though, because my instincts are so often wrong. Still, oh, I dunno) Still, that Spring and Summer-- I was in love with you beyond rhyme and beyond reason. I try to figure out why haven't found that since; if something in me broke when you left, if that kind of happiness only comes when you're young and kind of innocent, if it's just one of those things and maybe I'll be in that kind of love since. Since then I've always been looking for someone else; for a long time I was looking for you, for a while it's been someone else. I understand your frustration in New York; it seemed the only thing missing from the equation was me. "Why won't you love me?" you asked; the question and my inability to to answer it cut me more than you know.
--To V, 1997.
I've been looking backwards lately. I ran into "the kirk archive"...an attempt to index all the electronic and scanned in stuff I've saved, started all the way back in 1999. (I date when I add things to the index, no matter how old the content is, and that meta-information is kind of interesting to me.) It's kind of weird noting the similarities between what was written after college breakups and some more recent ones.
Fun Kirk Fact: As of this writing my August 1997 Palm Journal entry is the #1 hit for the phrase "perpetual nostalgic" and the #3 or so hit for the words seperately.
Article of the Moment
"Thinking hard about a complex decision that rests on multiple factors appears to bamboozle the conscious mind so that people only consider a subset of information, which they weight inappropriately, resulting in an unsatisfactory choice. In contrast, the unconscious mind appears able to ponder over all the information and produce a decision that most people remain satisfied with."
--Interesting that the email talks about how I don't trust "gut feelings", because yesterday Slashdot linked to a New Scientist study that indicates your subconscious mind is a better decision maker than you are, and that "sleeping on something" is one of the best way of making big life-impacting decisions.
I guess I consider that bad news. For one thing, the subconcious mind isn't very accountable. "Rational" logic, for all its limitations, generally has a series of steps that can be examined and shared, repeated or refuted.
The other thing is it seems this "thinking without thinking" would fall prey to all kind of instilled and instictive prejudices. Take religion, for example... there's a huge batch of deeply-held but mutually-incompatible beliefs out there (Mutually incompatible in the sense of holding "the" ultimate literal truth) that often come from this kind of gut-feeling. Same thing for a bunch of racist leanings...when you grow up in a culture that has a big grudge against another culture, that's often how you're going to lean unless you logic your way out of the cycle.
Maybe that's what art is about. A lot of human communication is at the logic level, art tries to work at that lower level. But it seems like it's really difficult to be receptive to that level of message.
What do you think?
Related Quote of the Moment
"And isn't sanity really just a one trick pony anyway? I mean all you get is one trick, rational thinking, but when you're good and crazy, oooh oooh oooh, the sky is the limit!"
--The Tick... grabbed that one in April of 1997. I'm such an information packrat.
This is the badge my mom, a major in The Salvation Army, was given when she got the VIP-ish tour of Ground Zero the other day. (I suppose it's a little odd that she's smiling for this particular badge photo, but I suppose that's just habit.) She's home from England for a week where she's been working since last summer. For six years, she was the supervisor for many of the Salvation Army employees who are now overseeing the support system for volunteers (she was in NYC during the WTC carbombing), plus she was "visiting from Salvation Army International Headquarters". It also seems like the people working there don't mind visitors so much; they understand that people want to pay respect and bear witness, and also the workers want to keep the message out that amazing work is still going on at the site.|
And the work is amazing. She told us about the "Taj" (as in Mahal), the enormous tent that is the main meal center for the workers. It's pretty cool how the meals are supplied, actually: because they're trying to support the economy of the area, they pay the local restaurants to make their usual specialty (Chinese, Indian, Sushi, etc) and then volunteers go around and bring the food to the central areas. It's cool how the support structure is working on several fronts like that, and providing the site workers with some variety besides. Also there are the "hydration stations" that offer warmth and soup and beverages. (I hadn't thought about how cold it must be for people who are out there all the time.)
One thing she mentioned that when the project is finally over, there's probably going to be a secondary sense of loss by the people who have been working at Ground Zero (which now physically resembles one of those giant construction pits). There's a solid sense of community and camaraderie there, a justified sense of important, if unspeakably tragic, work being done.
Link of the Moment
Buggy as heck yet still very intriguing, thesquarerootof-1.com has some cool virtual toys. (For some reason I had better luck clicking on the "I have shockwave but no sound" button; I still got sound, but it didn't crash then.)
|minus a muffler||
Good Timing of the Moment|
[Day after after a fender bender where the lady behind me decided the stop and go traffic should be more go than stop] "Yeah, it's so annoying with a car that's getting a little old. I mean, it's really tough to tell if that's a new sound going wrong, or just the same old stuff... [B-Pipe of exhaust disconnects on one end underneath car, resulting in various metallic scrapey sounds, as the engine gets loud since it's no longer connected to the muffler] ...I mean, it's so difficult to know..."
--Me to John Sawers, Nov 7 2001. $350 later and the car is ok. But I need some new tires in a bad way.
Link of the Moment
Everything2 trying to determine the single sickest joke ever... (PG13)
Quote of the Moment
"The bottleneck is not in technology, it's in art." --Penn Jillete
Loss of the Moment|
Yesterday I had the sad privilege of going to the funeral of a co-worker...a great guy by the name of Ed Breytman who passed away at the incredibly unjust age of 47. I got the chance to work with Ed, and help him out a bit with my knowledge of the computer language Perl...I think one of my strongest memories of him will be the way he called me by the nickname "Guru" when he was looking for a bit of help. (Though it wasn't just me, I think I heard him use it for other folks.) Actually, I think his attitude about the knowledge of others was admirable, especially because he was a go-getter himself. It's not going to be easy to pick up the stress and performance testing he was doing for the company from where he left off.
It was the first Jewish funeral I've been to, I believe. It was largely conducted in Russian, with some traditional Hebrew here and a bit of explanatory English there. One tradition I admired relative to current Protestant American habits is having mourners put the dirt on the coffin, either in symbolic garden-spadefuls, or even more utilitarian shovelfuls. I think there's a sense of closure with that, and a macabre beauty in restoring some of the literal meaning of the phrase "burying a loved one". (If I remember rightly the Protestant funerals I've been too often have the mourners bear witness to lowering the casket into the ground, but then leave an open grave, having the groundskeepers do everything after.)
So, that was really sad, and Ed will missed mightily.
Quote of the Moment
"Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence."
Everyone knew that young Abe Scheinfeldt was destined to find a vocation in religious work. Many thought he would become a cantor at the temple in his native Boston. His parents held a secret hope that he would become a rabbi.
But then, at 17, Abe encountered a street preacher who led him to faith in Jesus Christ.
For the next five years he sailed the world as a freight deckhand, reading the Bible and growing in faith, even though he had no human mentor to guide him.
When his ship finally returned to Boston, Abe chanced upon a Salvation Army open-air meeting. Almost immediately he decide to join the "salvation war." Within a year he became a cadet at the Army's School for Officer Training in New York, and in November 1901, he was commissioned as an officer and appointed to the Men's Social Service Department.
Following service in New York and New England, Captain Scheinfeldt was transferred to Grand Rapids, Mich., where he met and married another officer, newly commissioned Lieutenant Inez Witherington.
Less than six months later, when they were serving in Bloomington, Ind., the young couple's zeal put them at the center of a full-blown riot. The Bloomington Journal of Sept. 7, 1914, reported that Captain Abe was arrested for "holding a religious service on the streets of Bloomington."
"The police used their clubs on the heads of both men and women," the newspaper reported. Some 500 townspeople protested, but the authorities were adamant.
Three citizens posted bond for the captain, and he was released. Immediately he returned to his troops and began preaching again, only to be arrested once more. "By this time," the paper reported, "the crowd had swelled to at least 1,000 people and most of these followed him back to the jail."
Again local citizens posted bond, but this time Scheinfeldt, on advice of legal counsel, went into a nearby drugstore for refreshments while the crowd outside grew to "at least 1,500 to 2,000 people." The newspaper reported, "Every man, woman, and child in the crowd was protesting against the action of Mayor Harris and the police and deploring the arrest and disturbance of the Salvation Army leader when he was attempting to hold an outdoor religious service."
Abe Scheinfeldt's promising career was cut short by his untimely death from tuberculosis in 1927. His wife passed away in 1961, but the legacy of these two stalwart soldiers lives on in the lives of their daughter, Mrs. Brigadier Mary Moody, and a granddaughter, Major Betty Israel, now serving at The Salvation Army's International Headquarters in London, England.
--Last page of the Spring 2003 edition of Priority!, a print publication of the Eastern Territory of the Salvation Army. (Though check out that site, it's interesting how modeled it seems to be on People magazine.) Abe Scheinfeldt was my great-grandfather.
Five years ago today I wrote the following about my Grandma Israel. It was a strange time; Mo and I were just married the day before and were about to head down to Mexico. We all knew my grandmother was on her deathbed, but my mom had made the "executive decision" that if she passed away during the honeymoon I wouldn't find out 'til after we got back. She asked, though, that I write something to be read at her funeral for that likelihood. (I think that blend of real concern and sentimentality blended with practicality might be a trait of my family.) I also threw together a collection of digital photos and a copy of the video ErinMaru had shot and edited to be FedEx'd to her, but overnight hadn't been fast enough I found out on our return.
It's 2am, the wee small hours of the day after the day of my wedding, a thousand things to be done before I can go to my honeymoon in Mexico. The wedding was roundabout the happiest day of my life, despite or because of its flurry of lost rings and thunderstorms, but it was tempered by Grandma not being there bodywise, although we knew her thoughts and prayers were with us.
Grandma was the cornerstone of our family, a center we could always return to. And would always return to, and not just for the meatloaf! (I think anyone who's had Grandma's meatloaf, preferably for lunch the day after it had been made for dinner, with white bread and ketchup will understand how the confusion can be made.)
I tried to be faithful in writing letters to Grandma. Like my dad before me, I realized typing gave me my best, or only, chance of legibility. And I was often able, through some tricks of the computer, to include a photo of myself, or maybe some part of the world around me. I think it helped make sure my letters were interesting to look at even when the writing may have been same-old, same-old. I was surprised when I found out that Grandma especially liked that I addressed those letters "Grandma Israel". I mean, what else could her name be? Of course I addressed them to "Grandma".
What else will I remember about Grandma? Her and grandpa sitting me down and making me learn to TIE THOSE SHOELACES after getting away with pennyloafers for far too long. The red and white peppermint before church. I remember her big tupperware jug of iced-tea, and how happy I was at college when I found out that Lipton's bottled iced-tea, sweetened, no lemon, could do a passable imitation of Grandma's...not quite the same but good enough for a guy living off of college food for 4 years. I remember the amazing selection of cereals Grandma would have, a cornucopia of sweet breakfast goodness in the shelf underneath the oven.
You know, a lot of these memories do seem to be revolving around food and drink. Grandma always fed "her boys" right, whether you were talking food, or socially, or spiritually. I remember her settling fights between my cousins and me, and if I concentrate I can just faintly recollect the rush to the emergency room when Brian and I tipped way back in Grandpa's chair and I got a plant-stand to the head for my troubles. I still have a little scar from that time. I think the scar made from Grandma's passing may be a little deeper than that.
|star hop day 1||
So, the Patriots lost in about the worst fashion possible, letting the colts make what I believe is a record setting comeback for this kind of game after being down 21-3. That was just terrible. Chargers beat us up too much? The spa-like temperatures in the dome? (Who knew a dome team could so play the weather conditions card...) Core defensive unit getting old and busted? Dunno.
Personal silver lining: at least I won't be obsessing so much about football the next two weeks.
Video of the Moment
"I'm here to tell you a story about two people who decided to buy a starship. They buy it, and now at this point, they are somewhere in space, slowly drifting at about 10,000 miles per hour..."
--"Star Hop", sci-fi comedy play I wrote for (and also saw performed at, by grown-ups) the 10th Annual Marilyn Bianchi Kids' Playwriting Festival, as "directed" by me at Monticello Middle School in Cleveland Heights. Featuring a cameo by the director at the end of this part (the play is broken into thirds for Youtube) as a goonish security guard, toting this awesome gun.
There's a strong Hitchhikers' Guide influence here, though to my relief most of the gags seem original. "Starpox", what they name the ship, is a curse from that book, and probably makes the worst joke in the script.
The opening narration got cut out so I included the text above.
Man, were those kids hamming it up!
|star hop day 2||
I'm undertaking a giant decluttering effort. Thus far its been very successful, and my closets look fantastic. Of course, most of their contents are distributed liberally around the front room and bed room, but still, one battle at a time.
Video of the Moment
--I still think "Greenok Ug" is a grand name for an alien.
|star hop day 3||
Decluttering continues. You can tell I'm serious when I buy some kind of shelf like product, this time a sturdy ugly plastic set of shelves to replace the cool but ultimately unreliable modular cubes I had been relying on.
Quip of the yesterday, in an apology for the state of the rest of the apartment I described it as looking as if "the closet threw-up all over the front room. But now the closet feels much better."
Video of the Moment
--Final part, and bows.
I kind of dig both the brown squared off chair on the left and the big dark plastic M+M-like chairs on the right. Very space-age.
Silly injoke: "I always wanted to see the Nicholas Murray Butler museum on earth!" The previous year the drama club had done "Cheaper By The Dozen", and there was an odd line that we loved to mock, something about "Why, she even scored higher than Nicholas Murray BUTLER!"
During the bows I'm introduced as "Logan Israel"... for the 2 years at this school I used my middle name, kind of a teenage protest against moving all the time.
|THE END. EVERYONE BOWS, ETC.||
So I received a verbal offer of a new job today. I had a bit of angst about it. FoSO asked, in effect "good, a new job offer, so what's the problem?"... but of course I'll always find something to worry about. (Could I have a physical addiction to worry? I wonder.)
The problem as of this morning was
A. the way I hadn't shopped around, that this was the first company I had interviewed with or even looked at.
B. it seemed like a cool role, though wasn't this kind of ideal I had thought of as a small series of "small tight projects" (not that I'm certain if it's a realistic ideal)
C. I'm enjoying my slackerly life
I dealt with A. by talking with Scott, the guy who "found" the place, and says we would have taken the offer but didn't like the commute. He pointed out that while I was taking it easy post-layoff, he was pretty much flat out in his search, and actually this was one of the best things he found, and also based on his knowledge of me, it seemed like a good match. Plus yesterday for grins I checked craigslist, and while a scan of a few days of craigslist postings doth not a jobsearch make, I didn't get the feeling that there was a trove of untapped supercool, horse of a different color opportunities there.
I dealt with B. in talking with Tim, the guy who was kind of my mentor at Refresh; he encouraged me to think through what I wanted to do, and I think this job could be a great base for a more-UI centric approach to my career that I'd like to get to
With C. I negotiated a bit, and won't have to start for 4 weeks, so while it doesn't live up to every dream I might have of a period of leisure (esp if I do some work for my last company) It ain't bad, and if I apply myself I should have time for a fair number of the projects, self-improvement and otherwise, I'd like to get done, and maybe even some travel.
The job is downtown, Back Bay... there was a time, post-9/11, when that would have made me nervous, but I think I'm fine with it, it's just my usual need to worry kicking in. Based on the non-rushhour interviews, it's maybe an hour each way, but an hour of public transportation beats half an hour of driving. I can take a bus to the T stop, or walk, though it's a hike; I might look to buy a beater bike.
So...yay for me!
Script of the Moment
It was at this time that the writer of this play, realizing that he couldn't finish Act I without a lot of lasers, blood and guts, and other things that make people go out and pay to see "Star Wars," wisely decided to have me come out and say that there was actually no laser battle, and that the officers accepted a small bribe, made up with Zim and Erik, and had a good, hot meal, and everyone thought that they were getting a pretty good deal. However, the Star Cops left before our stars could ask them how to fly the ship. We now return, about two hours later.
--Narrator, from the script of Star Hop that I transcribed the other week.
Just to wrap up "Star Hop", I wanted to throw in the cast list: (I figure there's a small chance one of these Monticello / Cleveland Heights people will Google their own names and find this:)
by Logan Israel
directed by Logan Israel
Staff Drama Coaches: Georgie Adamsom and Sharon Collins
Make-up crew: Julie Tricarici, Merideth Koch,
Lori Patterson, Kasha Williams, Megan Hanger,
It has it all... stage make-up, general blurpiness, outstandingly hair styling with mousse that has given up the fight, holding flowers, flashing the Vulcan salute, and a shiny jacket with pins, a too-cool-to-smile, not-cool-enough-to-scowl expression. As published in my school's paper "The Monty Times", though I also have the color original.
So the version of the play I've been showing this week was at my school, on a twin bill with "Best Friends and Other Strangers" by Dionne Custer and Meredith Howard. I played the father role in that, and had a somewhat bigger part than in my own play.
Final note, I noticed the Bianchi festival put me at the top of the bill that year, with most of the other plays being in order by grade. Guess they wanted to start with a laugh, which would make it a bit of a compliment.
|best of kisrael.com|
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